Like us, when you conjure up ideas of what makes for successful creative branding, it’s likely you start by thinking of the visuals. The blueprint identity that tells you who a brand is, without spelling it out. And as for which brands that spring to mind first – it’s surely those who are the very best at doing exactly that. Whether it’s using a shape, a symbol, a colour, or a typography style, the pinnacle of excellent branding is executed with utter simplicity. From the ruby red of Coca-Cola to the unmistakable bitten apple, of well – you know, brands that give themselves a distinctiveness, an individuality beyond that of just a brand name, force the market to sit up and take notice.

But where did the concept of creative branding come from? How has history informed the brand identities strewn across the billboards and buses of today? And, crucially in a time where customer buying journeys are more sporadic and less linear than ever before – what could we learn from revisiting some of the key cornerstones of visual identity from over the last century? When we peel back the digital layers of today’s marketing landscape, everything from data matched audiences to conversion optimisation tools, what will we rediscover about the founding principles of captivating and converting a buyer?

Right now brands are in constant competition for both airtime and attention. Marketing campaigns take up huge budgets, paid media activity is geared towards increasing a company’s share of voice and those heading up business branding are eagerly searching out new ways to capture an audience in the 0.05 seconds it takes for people to form an opinion about a website (8ways, 2019). All this digital noise can make it difficult for Brand Managers and other creative decision makers to strip back to basics. Yet, when you think that using a signature colour can increase brand recognition by 80% (Reboot, 2018), and when presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23% (Forbes), it’s clear that by refocussing on the core elements of their visual identity, brands can see positive results.

As a creative branding agency in Manchester, we want to share our expertise wider than the dos and don’ts of branding a business with conviction. And provide real context behind why certain branding principles work for certain businesses, where they came from and who’s seen success through the ages by executing a similar set of tactics.

Consider this as your invite to journey through the decades with the Glorious branding gurus. Stopping by everyone from the pinups of Art Nouveau in the 1900s, to the psychedelic colour waves of the 1970s, all the way to sustainability brand superheroes of the 2010s. Our latest blog series really is all you need to know about branding through the decades.

But before all that, let’s start our story at the very thing central to branding: the logo. In fact, the birth of the brand logo can be traced all the way back to the 13th Century, and the dawn of the Renaissance era – when potters, stonemasons and goldsmiths first began to chisel and imprint logos onto their own work. As the decades passed, this signature stamping became a popular and effective way of generating new business. Once a branded product left the workshop, it was out for the eyes of other potential customers.

 

Fast forward to the Victorian era and subsequent mass production on an industrial scale, and there started a surge in crediting craftsmanship. This led to the first ever trademarked logo in 1876 for Bass Brewery. It was a bright red equilateral triangle, with a swirling text printed below. And it’s fascinating: did founder William Brass consider the compelling simplicity of his brand logo? Did he think of the shape, and its button like functionality? Was colour psychology at play, was the urgency of red considered alongside its intended impact on the buyer?

 

As complex or as simple as his motives might have been, the world’s founding logo got the ball rolling on what went on to become the leading visual representation of brand identities. It was the first iteration in a long line of logo legacies, and soon after its inception – other companies began to follow suit, brandishing their own visual namesake.

Thomas Twining – tea merchant extraordinaire – founded Twinings Tea in 1706 from a shop store on London’s Strand. Today, not only do they still occupy the same premium postcode, but they have also been branded by the same logo since 1887. The arched capitalised font stamped beneath a lion crest has gone onto to represent much more than just the product itself. It’s a symbol of Britishness, heritage and legacy – steadfast branding at it’s very best. Levi Strauss & Co. is another brand with logo longevity. First used in 1886 Levi’s unmistakeable logo features two horses, steered by two cowboys out in what was presumably America’s Wild West. Now embossed onto leather and stitched to the back of jeans globally, this logo really is as durable as their denim. And when a brand colour palette became accessible many years later, Levi’s opted for bright and bold: red, just like that founding Bass logo.

 

At Glorious, we’ve helped create a number of visual brand identities to take shape in a style not far from the founding Bass Brewery logo. When Future Projects construction consultancy came to us for a rebrand, they wanted to launch their unique marriage of skill sets into new markets at a time when the retail consumer experience had dramatically changed. It was clear from our research that the Future Project’s USP was their unique experience in end-to-end project management. Our team focused on bringing this aspect through into the brand identity. And so at the centre of that was the logo, using symbols that demonstrate Future Project’s mission to look after a project from ‘start to finish’. With a strong, graphic play and stop symbol – we distilled the essence of the brand in just two simple shapes. Saying it all, without saying much at all.

 

Another client, Ten Thousand Islands, came to Glorious for help launching a new range of footwear, uniquely designed to be worn by the pool, on the beach, in the bar and when out clubbing. For such a multipurpose product, it was important to create a brand identity that was intentionally open to interpretation, without being wishy-washy or too ambiguous. So, setting our sights on summer – we created a brand symbol shaped and styled on the sun. Rounded and bright yellow this simple bisected graphic expression could become a brand mark that was unmistakably took the territory of Summer, whilst also alluding to the unique ‘day and night’ performance of the product. You see done well, shape can be read with plenty meaning and message – without need for over explanation.

 

So we’ve come full circle, from the founding father of the logo, to the ways in which his original design idea continues to be played out in creative branding today. If you think your business could benefit from rerouting its brand identity akin to that of William Bass – then here’s our top tips to helping you roll back to 1857 – 21st Century style:

• Shapes and symbols will form a key cornerstone of brand identities developed in this style. Consider icons with strong, bold and definite shaping since these will have the most impact.

• When thinking about colour, ensure that you consider how the hue will compliment the chosen geometric shapes in your brand guidelines. A pale pink square, or a duck-egg blue circle doesn’t carry the same conviction. Simple yes, but not always subtle.

• Ensure that your chosen iconography represents your brand ethos and vision. That representation can require some thinking from the audience, but it shouldn’t be impossible to spot the connection.

• Consider how your branding will translate across channels. Yes, you’ve opted for bold simple shapes and colours, but how well can that cross between online and offline marketing? Does it have enough scope to grow across multiple campaigns and assets?

• Finally, think about how your set symbol will sit on a product. Just like the traders of the 1800s and earlier, your stamped signature should be visible, a badge to be recognised, remembered, and recalled.

 

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